Exhibitionism: Chris Sullivan takes in The Rolling Stones

Early Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones

Being obsessed with British subculture, I was keen to view Exhibitionism at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea, and see The Rolling Stones make an exhibition of themselves.

Ideally situated on the Kings Road, a short walk from Sloane Square and what was The Chelsea Drugstore, the show opens with a short montage movie, produced by Sam Pattinson and directed by Warren Chapman. About 15 minutes long, the work is spread over forty different shaped screens, arched around an oval shaped room and comprises different pieces of archive footage that rhythmically pop up across the screens causing one’s eyes to dart all over the shop like a child’s in the world’s biggest sweet store.

This remarkable evocation of the band’s fascinating fifty year history leads onto another room that carefully recreates the scruffy, dirty flat (with its unwashed dishes and filthy bed sheets, threadbare couch and old school gramophone) that the band shared in Edith Grove, Chelsea in 1962.

Indeed, this was the exhibit’s masterstroke because by screening their full history in 15 minutes (via the auspices of modern technology) and then juxtaposing that against what is basically a period recreation of squalor, we see just how far this band has gone and why we are here at this exhibition in the first place.

The Rolling Stones – An Institution

Following on in subsequent rooms we see the band’s early posters for gigs at the likes of the 100 Club that, resembling something from a 1950’s rock n’ roll review, contextualize the combo as more of a phenomenon than a group of touring minstrels.

Incredibly, they’ve been together 54 years and, in 1963 before most people in the UK owned a TV, reached number 3 in the charts! Of course, the memorabilia in front of us constantly reminds us of the band’s history some of which is unexpectedly captivating.

I thought, for example, that a room devoted to guitars would bore me to tears but the opposite was the case as this chronological succession of beautiful vintage Les Pauls, Gibson’s and Gretsch guitars (whose design development reminded me of that of cars – some like a fifties Cadillac De Ville and others like a seventies Porsche) almost deserve an exhibition of their own.

As you walk through the multiple rooms it’s as if you are evolving with the band, enjoy their build up, their success and groan with disappointment as you see the band live on film sometime in the late seventies with Jagger dancing across a HUGE stadium stage in a pair of white ballet tights and a red singlet, wiggling his ass like a two bit hooker but making millions to boot.

But hey, I’m not here to criticize the Rolling Stones — the world’s greatest rock’n’roll outfit, who have written more great songs than any other band and are literally an institution. I am here to tell you about the exhibition. So, simply, if you are a Stones fan, an obsessive pop culture gannet, a student, a sociologist or just really into rock’n’roll then you just have to go but, in my opinion, if you are only mildly curious, the  £19 adult ticket may not bring you enough satisfaction.  ML


5th April till 4th. September